February 2009 Current Events: Business/Science News

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Here are the key events in business and science news for the month of February 2009.

  • Macy's Cutting 7,000 Jobs (Feb. 2): Department store Macy's announces it will be cutting approximately 7,000 jobs in the coming weeks—4% of its workforce. Dividends to shareholders and contributions to employees' retirement benefits will also be reduced.
  • Pay Cap for Executives in Bailouts (Feb. 4): President Obama will place a $500,000 cap on executive salaries for those companies receiving bailout money. Executives will also be barred from receiving bonuses in the form of liquid assets. This announcement comes after the revelation that companies receiving government money under the bailout package had awarded billions of dollars in bonuses to executives and employees.
  • Historic Job Loss in January; Unemployment Rate 7.6% (Feb. 6):January 2009 saw 598,000 jobs lost, the highest number since December 1974, which brings the total number of jobs lost to 1.8 million in just three months. The unemployment rate jumped to 7.6%, up from the 7.2% rate in December 2008.
  • Senate Approves Stimulus Plan (Feb. 10): In a 61–37 vote, mostly along party lines, the Senate approves President Obama's $838 billion stimulus plan. This vote follows last week's House vote to approve a similar $820 billion measure. The two plans will have to be reconciled before the plan can be sent to President Obama for final approval. (Feb. 12): Congress reaches a deal on the stimulus plan, whittling it down to $787 billion. Three Republicans in the Senate played a crucial role in the final plan, forcing around $30 billion to be removed from the outline. Approximately $70 billion in tax cuts were also necessary for their support.


    (Feb. 17): President Obama has signed the $787 billion stimulus package into law. The president's hope is that the package will create 3.5 million jobs for Americans in the next two years. Most Republican lawmakers voice dissent over the package, claiming it contains too much "pork-barrel" spending and not enough tax cuts. Many economists disagree, saying even more spending and fewer tax cuts are the only way to create jobs and lead the U.S. out of the recession.
  • Vaccinations Not Cause of Autism, Court Declares (Feb. 12): A special court rules that vaccinations do not cause autism, in the civil case of three families seeking compensation from the federal vaccine-injury fund. The families claim their children's autism was brought on as a result of their vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella, or the M.M.R. vaccine. The judge claims that the families have failed to prove that a link exists between vaccines and autism, and that scientific evidence refutes any connection. More than 5,000 claims have been filed in this matter.
  • Japan in Worst Financial Crisis Since WWII (Feb. 16): Japan's gross domestic product fell at a 12.7% annual rate in the last quarter of 2008, according to the country's economic and fiscal policy minister. Japan's economy relies heavily on automobile and electronics exports, the demand for which has fallen sharply around the world.
  • Facebook's New Terms of Use Cause Backlash (Feb. 16): Recent changes to Facebook's terms of use causes an uproar among consumer advocacy groups, including the blog Consumerist.com. The new terms stipulate that the social networking site owns the rights to all materials users post on their personal Websites. Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, states that users always retain the rights to their own content and that the site does not wish to change that. (Feb. 18): Following the uproar over ownership of user-generated content—including a formal legal complaint by consumer groups—Facebook removes unclear wording about the site's right to members' materials. They are temporarily restoring the previous version of the membership contract.


  • Automakers Request Additional $14 Billion in Bailout Funds (Feb. 17): American automaking giants General Motors and Chrysler ask for an additional $14 billion from the government—bringing their total request to $39 billion—to prevent them from going bankrupt. They claim they will be making more drastic cuts, including closing plants (and laying off workers) and cutting production of certain brands in their lineup.
  • President Obama Reveals $75 Billion Housing Plan (Feb. 18): President Obama announces his $75 billion plan to help struggling homeowners. The plan is intended to help homeowners refinance their mortgage and prevent foreclosure. He also claims that the plan will help housing prices return to earlier values and improve struggling neighborhoods. The plan has drawn praise from housing and economic experts, as well as consumer advocates.
  • Stocks Dive for Fifth Straight Day; Lowest Levels Since 1997 (Feb. 23): The Dow Industrial Average and the S & P 500, the two major indexes of the U.S. Stock Market, fall to their lowest levels since 1997. Investors are worrying the government's efforts to prevent the economy from crashing further aren't sufficient. The Dow dropped 3.4% and the S & P 500 fell 3.5%.
  • GDP Dropped 6.2% at End of 2008 (Feb. 27): In the fourth quarter of 2008, the American Gross Domestic Product, the measure of a nation's total economic activity, shrank by 6.2%. This figure is much worse than the initial estimate of 3.8%. The economy grew 1.1% over the entirety of 2008.
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